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Comic Review: ‘Surface Tension’ Series (#1-#5)

This week the final issue of Surface Tension was released, bringing the 5-part mini-series written and illustrated by Jay Gunn and distributed by Titan Comics to an end. As such, we wanted to reflect back on the eco-thriller that featured everything from sea-sickness water zombies, to horrifying aqua monsters, to islanders in peril.

Surface Tension Issue #4
Surface Tension Issue #4

Since our February interview with Gunn, we have gushed about the four major reasons we loved issue #1, pondered the story’s mysteries in issue #2, and commended the series for keeping us guessing even after the midway point following issue #3.

Issue #4 gave us all of the answers to our questions, and some of my own predictions ended up being correct. Without spoiling too much, the series did raise the question on who was the bigger threat to planet earth: mankind or the “monsters.” However, there were some plot points I never would have guessed. It was revealed that the “monsters” themselves had a fascinating origin story, one that, quite frankly, could very well be possible for all we know. One complaint of mine is that while the story did a good job of building up the tension (ha, no pun intended) in issues 1-3, the denoument in issue #4 was too cut and dry (not another pun, I swear). The story unfolded using too much exposition. On one hand, I appreciated that everything was made clear, on the other hand, it lacked a certain amount of drama.

Surface Tension Issue #5
Surface Tension Issue #5

Issue #5 was the grand finale. I must say, this is where the drama returned! There’s a budding love triangle that ends up being surprisingly touching and several super hero-esque battles (whose action and movement were creatively illustrated, I might add). One scene I simply adored featured Super Megumi literally having the fate of mankind in her hands, as she holds Mary in her palm and debates whether or not wiping out the humans would be the best thing for the planet. The symbolism and art work accompanied the story nicely. At the end of the issue, I really felt like there was great closure… up until the last few pages. Gunn snuck in a twist that makes you wonder whether or not mankind got a happy ending.

Overally, I enjoyed the Surface Tension series. I found the characters to be interesting and morally ambiguous, and I genuinely cared about what would happen to them. The artwork was lovely, and I particularly enjoyed the whimsy of the monsters, the selkies (sea lion/humanoid/monster creatures that I want as a pet), the coral, and the scenes of the characters’ memories. Despite the occasional bit of foul language, the violence wasn’t overtly graphic, and the story was easy to follow along, making this a series I would recommend to everyone from a middle school student to my best adult buddy.

Did you read the final issue of Surface Tension? If so, let us know what you thought! And if not, well, weigh in anyway in the comments!

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Comic Review: ‘Surface Tension #3’

Surface Tension #3 (the midway point in a 5-part ecological horror miniseries written/illustrated by Jay Gunn and distributed by Titan Comics) was released, and despite receiving a handy dandy electronic copy for my reviewing pleasure, I skipped over to my local comic book shop to pick up a hard copy. PDFs simply can’t compete with the vibrancy of ink on glossy pages or the crispness of leafing through a brand spanking new comic book. As I was purchasing the issue, the clerks asked what I thought of the series so far. “Weird, huh?” they quipped.

Surface-Tension_03_CoverYes, with premonitions of devastating tsunamis caused by eerie coral, frightening creatures (like a Creepy Fly Baby) attacking islanders, hypnosis sequences with lovely sherbet-colored panels, and fantastical transformations complete with new-found special powers like water juggling, Surface Tension #3 is definitely strange— but that’s not a bad thing. Actually, in a day and age when remakes are all the rage and everything is one giant recycled cliché, I’m more than okay with a little weirdness. (In fact, we even posted a blog about the 4 things we loved about the series after issue #1!)

As a good story teller should at the midway point, Gunn ups the ante, teasing readers by answering some questions while simultaneously introducing new mysteries. After perusing #2, we posted a blog about the 4 questions we had about the series thus far, and I am pretty sure I was 99.9% wrong on all my speculations. As someone who has a solid track record of predicting the ending of a movie from the trailer, I have to admit I’m thoroughly enjoying the surprises in Surface Tension. Not knowing what weird thing is going to happen next is precisely what keeps me reading the series!

SURFACE TENSION #3 (OF 5)
WRITER/ARTIST: Jay Gunn
PUBLISHER: Titan Comics
PAGE-COUNT: 32PP
PRICE: $3.99
ON SALE: July 29

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Comic Review: Surface Tension #2 by Jay Gunn

Surface Tension #2 (the second issue in a five-part sci-fi/horror/adventure mini-series created by Jay Gunn and published by Titan Comics) debuted recently, and rather than doing a standard ol’ review, we thought we’d get down to the nitty gritty and address the four questions readers are asking themselves after reading the issue. (Ahoy! Minor spoilers ahead!)

Who is Mystery Memory Man?

Surface-Tension_02_Cover_ALast issue, readers were introduced to Megumi, one of two people who suddenly returned from the sea after coming down with the mysterious “sea sickness” which drove people to the ocean in waves, quite literally. When she resurfaced, she had blue skin and no recollection of what happened.

In this issue, her memories start to come back, including one of her as a child in a hospital following a disaster at a chemical plant. In what was reminiscent of a scene from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a new, seemingly masked visitor now appears in her memories. Henceforth known as Mystery Memory Man (MMM)*, the stranger warns Meg that her memories are being used against her and ominously states that “everything is connected” before disappearing.

Who is MMM? How is he able to contact Meg through her mind? It seems like he’s trying to help her, but why? He promises they’ll meet again, leaving readers in suspense and yearning to learn more about him and his intentions.

*Truthfully, we don’t even know if it’s a man. Heck, we don’t even know if it’s HUMAN. But for all intents and purposes, we’ll stick with MMM.

What is up with that sea monster?

Issue #2 upped the scare factor by showcasing a gnarly creature that surfaced from the water and crept onto land, blurting out strange, robot-esque phrases like “the flesh needs to be reconnected” and “evolve new flesh.” Visually, he’s frightening with his glowing red eyes and rows of teeth – definitely the thing of nightmares. The sea monster appears to be on a hunt, possibly for Meg and Ryan, and is willing to kill anything in its way. But what is it? Can it change its form? What does it want? All questions I pondered as I read in horror. I predict a game of cat-and-mouse in the issues to follow.

Who is worse: man or the monsters?

Surface_Tension_2_preview2A memory of a disaster at a chemical plant. Humans attacking others out of fear. Armed guards and threats of violence. Fish returning to the water near where the mysterious coral and monsters appear. All of these things are sprinkled throughout the issue, suggesting that while humans are destroying the planet with waste and cruelty, the mysterious coral (and corresponding monsters) might actually be helping the planet. Perhaps the “monsters” aren’t really terrible at all, but rather see mankind as a threat to Earth and are just trying to protect the world?

Sure, 99% of the human population has to go, but isn’t that a small price to pay to preserve an entire planet? While I’m not entirely sure that’s the direction the story will go, I do feel like it has potential to bring up deep issues about mankind, our existence on this planet, and the kind of legacy we’ll leave when we (inevitably) become an endangered species – or worse, go extinct. Worth noting: Surface Tension has been heavily promoted as an “eco-thriller,” but the emphasis on the environment is approached in an interesting way that’s understandable without being off-putting to conservatives/global warming deniers/my dad.

WHAT DOES “EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED” MEAN?!

What. Does. It. Mean? This phrase was used in Issue #1 and again in the second and seems to be the major theme of the series, though its significance and meaning isn’t quite clear yet. Is mankind connected to the monsters? Are mankind and the monsters one and the same? What are your predictions, GeekGirl World?

It seems like the first two issues of the series are full of questions, and I can’t wait to read the second half of the series to learn more. Be sure to pick up Surface Tension #2, available at your favorite comic book store now! You can even purchase a hard copy or a digital copy online!

SURFACE TENSION #2
WRITER/ARTIST: Jay Gunn
PUBLISHER: Titan Comics
ISSUES IN SERIES: 2 (OF 5)
PAGE-COUNT: 32 pp
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASE DATE: June 24

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Comic Review: Surface Tension #1 by Jay Gunn

Surface Tension #1, the first issue in a 5 part sci-fi/horror/adventure mini-series created by Jay Gunn and published by Titan Comics, debuts today and there are 4 major reasons I love it:

4) THE TITLE!

thumbnailThe title “Surface Tension is perfect because it cleverly, succinctly, and accurately describes the story in two-folds. First, there is literally tension on the surface of the British channel island of Breith as the townsfolk strain to rebuild and survive after a strange “sea-sickness” causes the majority of the world’s population to make a zombie-esque mecca into the ocean. Things get stranger when a year later two people return from the ocean, with teal skin and no memory of what has happened. This turn of events leads to confusion on the island, as the townspeople try to figure out what is happening.

Second, in its most basic definition, the scientific term “surface tension” is described as an effect where the surface of a liquid is strong. Going further, it is a “property of the surface of a liquid that allows it to resist an external force.” Did you ever do the experiment where you put drops of water on a penny, expecting to see water splash about, only to find it forms a bubble or “skin” of water on good ol’ Honest Abe’s face? Surface tension! It seems the title is also hinting at the strength and power of the mystery in the sea, and the way it which it has changed the people who are returning from its watery depths.

3) THE SUSPENSE!

Issue #1 is filled with quandaries that left me scratching my head and anxiously turning the page looking for answers: What caused the sea-sickness? Why are people returning now? Is this deliverance? Should they be quarantined? These are the questions our characters begin asking one another, and it’s completely in line with what the reader is pondering also. Additionally, the first issue ends with a major cliff-hanger, and it looks like things are about to get more dangerous for the people of Breith. I can not wait to see what happens next!

2) THE CHARACTERS!

10369594_589420794518003_5156077523524982521_nI am a young 20-something blessed to be living in a diverse, metropolitan city where I have friends of all walks of life: varying age groups, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds. However, rarely is that kind of diversity present in literature. In graphic novels, it’s nearly non-existent. (I will save that rant for another day.) However, Gunn does an excellent job of capturing layered and diverse characters, without relying on stereotypes or clichés.

I am particularly pleased that two of the main characters in the first issue are women. First we have Mary: a former nurse, quasi-new-age meditating hippie, and caring problem-solver whose instinct is to help others in her community. Then we have Megumi, a former biologist and environmentalist who has experienced horror and loss, and is one of the first people to return from the sea. The women are different ages and ethnicities, but their commitment to figuring out what it going on unites them, and the two clearly care for one another and rely on each other. Gunn has hinted that Mary and Megumi’s ideologies are different, and that may create conflict between the two later. However, for now, their interaction is real and genuine.

Side note: I also love that while there is nudity in the novel (like when Megumi’s nude body emerges from the ocean), the women are not overtly sexualized. Marvel and DC definitely have a thing or two to learn from Gunn on how to appropriately draw women!

1) THE AUTHOR!

In February, GeekGirl World had the opportunity to chat with writer and author Jay Gunn about his life, his work, and zombies (naturally). We were all completely enchanted by his eloquent and thoughtful responses, and I remember very vividly thinking, “If his writing and art are anything like his interview, Surface Tension will be amazing.” I am so glad to report that the first issue was just as beautiful (both in text and in art) as I hoped it would be. I will continue to follow Gunn’s work on his Facebook page, and look forward to reading the rest of the series via Titan Comics. Surface Tension #1 debuts today, and I urge you all to support Gunn’s work by purchasing a copy.

SURFACE TENSION #1
WRITER/ARTIST: Jay Gunn
PUBLISHER: Titan Comics
ISSUES IN SERIES: 1 (OF 5)
PAGE-COUNT: 40pp
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASE DATE: May​ 27

 

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INTERVIEW: Surface Tension’s Jay Gunn

Readers around the globe are anxiously awaiting Jay Gunn’s comic book debut, Surface Tension. This highly anticipated 5 issue mini-series is already being talked about within sci-fi and horror circles, but not a lot is known about the man behind the project. GeekGirl World had the unique privilege of asking Gunn about his work, feminism, the fate of the world, and what would happen in a celebrity death match between two Zombie Superstars. His eloquent answers left us completely enamored, and if his prose is anything like his graphic novel, then we absolutely can not wait for Surface Tension, which debuts May 2015 via Titan Comics.

Surface Tension
GGW: We heard that Surface Tension is creator owned, and you’re both the writer and artist of the work! Nice job. Did you have 100% control over the end product? What was that experience like? Did you prefer any one aspect of the job over another?

Gunn: When I originally pitched Surface Tension to Titan I had written a much longer treatment that focused more on the human relationship drama within the island community. Senior editor Steve White really liked the idea of the story but asked me to cut the page count down by about 50% and to merge a number of the characters. I restructured the story that helped to focus and streamline the action. I’m actually thankful for that initial steer as I’d still be drawing the book years from now and would never finish it!

I tend to think in visuals more than I do words and, if I could, I would prefer to just draw the story right onto the page and think about the words later. I had a very strong idea and vision of the overall story but I’m also a very collaborative artist so I enjoyed bouncing ideas around with others which is something you can do at the writing stage. Drawing is very time consuming, or at least it is for me as I was doing everything, I labour over every panel – what is the meaning in this drawing, what is the feeling I’m trying to convey?

From Gunn's Facebook: "A strange ceremony is taking place on the remote island of Breith! The font is a placeholder."
From Gunn’s Facebook: “A strange ceremony is taking place on the remote island of Breith! The font is a placeholder.”

GGW:  Surface Tension has been described by Titan Comics as The Walking Dead, meets Studio Ghibli and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. In what ways would you say your work is similar? Were they a conscious inspiration? What other works have inspired your career?

Gunn: I’d say I was more inspired by “Ghibli” and “Invasion of the body snatchers” than I was of “The Walking Dead.” Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the Philip Kaufman version) is a masterpiece of building up slow burn paranoia and there are some wonderfully composed street level shots and scenes that work at a subconscious level to make you feel uneasy. It’s such a carefully crafted film, in some ways it is the ultimate ‘nature versus humanity’ film. Everything worked so well, it had a very clever use of location – setting an alien seed pod invasion in San Francisco – the home of ‘flower power’, hippies and alternative psychotherapy. And that ending! Perfection! I tried to capture some of that sense of location in Surface Tension, both beautiful and at the same time a little off kilter.

It may not be obvious from the first episode of Surface Tension but the work of Hayao Miyazaki was instrumental in helping me to have the confidence to tell a story without the need for macho superheroes or overt violence. Underneath the lovely colourful visuals of his films are ideas and a philosophy, they’re not just stories of good versus evil. His films have a lot to say about our relationship with the world around us. I respond much more positively to these sorts of stories and so I wanted to put some of Miyazaki’s philosophy on nature and society, which is very similar to my own, into Surface Tension.

Most of all I wanted Surface Tension to be about my own personal outlook on with the world around me. In the end I was less inspired by the works of others than I was of my own experiences. In the early stages of writing Surface Tension I was diagnosed with cancer and, for a time, I thought I would be too ill to finish the book. I had to take some time out to re-evaluate my relationship with life in order to get better. I started to spend a lot more time outdoors and I started to notice the small things that I’d always taken for granted, the changing of seasons, birds, insects – all of that stuff that happens outside of the home or office. I soon realised that I had become disconnected with the natural world around me, always too busy hurtling from one office deadline to the next working on jobs that didn’t fulfil me and making myself very ill in the process. So I pulled myself together, took a deep breath and went back to the book with a new vigour for life, I wanted to write something that was full of optimism and hope. Even amongst the horror of human bodies falling apart and when most of humanity is threatened – there’s always that glimmer of hope, something to cling on to! So the biggest inspiration for the story was life itself.

From Gunn's Facebook: "Continuation of a Work In Progress... The final illustration will depict some of the more 'fantasy' elements"
From Gunn’s Facebook: “Continuation of a Work In Progress… The final illustration will depict some of the more ‘fantasy’ elements”

GGW: GeekGirl World is excited to see the story appears to contain a female protagonist! Gender in geek culture, specifically comics, is currently a hot-button issue. How would you describe the character? Do you feel as though she would be considered a feminist? What does the word “feminist” mean to you?

Gunn: All my life I’ve been surrounded by strong women. My mother was a home helper for the elderly and people with disabilities such as motor neuron diseases. She would bring them food, cook for them, bathe them and so on. As a child I would sometimes accompany her on these visits and see her helping. I was a little afraid, and sensing my fear the patients would chat me and try to put me at ease. At that young age I witnessed human frailties but there was always a smile, a joke or a story to be had. These people had a strength and a lust for life that, today, I don’t see in people half their age or ability.

It was natural for me to write strong female characters. For me strong female characters come in all shapes, skin tone and age and from all corners of the globe. I’m not overly keen on the ‘superhero’ representation of female strength. The superhero myth perpetuates this idea in society that ‘strength’ always comes down to a perfect physical appearance and who can hit the hardest.
I read a brilliant graphic novel, “The Photographer” that follows Medicins Sans Frontieres and Juliete Fournot who served as the head of a mission to bring aid to those caught up in war torn Afghanistan. Now she was a true depiction of a strong female ‘superhero’, someone brave and strong enough to stand up to traditional male dominated hierarchies, enduring and overcoming many hardships to alleviate the suffering of others. She was a strong and beautiful person!

There are two strong female protagonists at the heart of Surface Tension, Mary and Megumi;
Mary is a kindly 50 something lady who, even in darkest of times, believes in people, the community and the potential of people and humanity. Megumi is a 30 something biologist, she works in the field of environmental studies, going out to disaster areas. Megumi is world wear and has lost her faith in mankind, she now believes that the planet would be better off without us.
There is a debate at the heart of the story between the two female characters – can we be trusted as custodians of the planet, as a species are we cursed with a perpetual desire to destroy each other and everything around us? The outcome of this debate will decide the fate of the human race. The heart of this debate drives the story and the fact that two strong female characters are having this passionate conversation was very important to me and the story.
What is ‘feminism?’ For me, the answer is the same for both men and women – it is a belief in one’s self, to buck conventions (cultural and establishment) and to have the strength and the autonomy to stand up for one’s sense of ideal. Men and women should be the same in these regards, we’re all people prone to same strengths and weaknesses. I didn’t set out to write a pro-feminist story, I just wanted to write a story about men and women being equal, we all bring something different and unique to the table regardless of sex, race or creed.

From Gunn's Facebook: "non-official teaser montage"
From Gunn’s Facebook: “non-official teaser montage”

GGW: Surface Tension appears to take place in a post-apocalyptic world, in which most of mankind becomes ill and walks into the oceans, leaving the planet (and those who remain behind) radically different. Things appear to get stranger on earth when some return from the sea! How do you really imagine earth being 10 years from now? 50 years? 100?

Gunn: I think the Earth will go on with or without us, we might make a mess of it but it will always prevail over us, it’s vanity to think otherwise, the planet doesn’t need us but we need it. Now the future of the human race, that’s a different story! There are times that I can get quite pessimistic about our future. You only have to watch the news to lose one’s faith in humanity; images of war, human greed, clashing of cultures, environmental catastrophes, the list goes on. I feel that things will get even worse before they have a hope of getting better. The human race is just like any one person; it sometimes takes something bad to happen before you realise the error of your ways, something to wake you up! Be that from an unhealthy life style that you know is wrong or a job that is slowly killing you, a toxic relationship, or whatever it may be. Once you’ve had this bad thing happen to you then you might decide to change your life and try to prevent it from happening again. I think the human race hasn’t quite realised how bad things are getting, it is in a collective denial. I’m sure that there will be a major event in the near future that will shake things up and if we’re wise enough we’ll have to radically rethink our way of life in order for us to survive. I don’t think that we can sustain our way of life for much longer, we’re rapidly outstripping the planet of all natural resources without giving back, something has got to give – it always does. And that’s the debate that is at the heart of Surface Tension.

GGW: Who would win in a fight: George A. Romero or Frank Darabont?

Gunn: Who would win in a fight between Romero and Darabont? I see them as two different beasts; Romero I see as an outsider, a wily old coyote, a survivor that’s always circling the chicken coup of Hollywood. And Darabont, well he has way more heavy hitters behind him so he’s more as a big old grizzly bear. Would they fight? I know that they have a mutual respect for each other and they’re fiercely independent so I think that they would sit down together and have an understanding and then they would team up together to fight the suits that threaten their creative existence. :)


 

Watch the Surface Tension Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Px48D2F1aRQ

Pictures provided by Jay Gunn’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JayGunnArts

Learn more about Titan Comics: http://titan-comics.com/

 

 

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